Scenes from a Multiverse: Canada Six, Insanity Wastes, Zones of Derision. © 2010 J. Rosenberg.
Today, I've been looking at free Web comics, which have become one of the hot things in digital publishing over the past decade. Here are some titles that leave the old school pulp publishers in the dust. Each one of them uses the new medium in a clever way to capture our own, time-tossed cognitive dissonance. In no particular order, first up is, Scenes from a Multiverse, by Jonathan Rosenberg. If you want to laugh at the craziness of now, set in future dimensions, go have a look (Hat Tip: @KateSherrod). It's fantastic. Period.
Bill Walko's new Web Comic The Hero Business is an incredibly funny and scathing look at the cynical world of superheroic comicdom now. The archive site is here. CBR reviewed it here in August: "The Hero Business is a full-service agency providing advising, costume design, and other services to superheroes, told from the point of view of Parker Jameson [modeled after Winona Ryder], the new receptionist. The comic mixes up familiar characters and some fresh jokes, and the clean, easy to follow art style makes it work nicely as a gag strip as well as a continuing story." This strip is sort of like WKRP in Cincinnati meets the Modern Age of comic books, with the revolving door of death a sharp little sub-theme alongside a celebutante hero wannabe, who oozes millennial entitlement in the first issue. There are also some cool plot twists in among the jokes. But what really sets this strip apart? It's an original mix of three things: Postmodern office satire with a Fourth Wall comics Bullpen parody set inside a superheroic narrative. - Ever wondered what would happen if all those editors and creators that comics fans love to complain about suddenly lived in a superheroic universe, possibly had superpowers themselves, and were subjected to the mad turns of their own decision-making? Find out in The Hero Business. A preview of the second issue is up here.
Larry Latham's Lovecraft is Missing is set in the 1920s. It's a mystery in which the characters search for H. P. Lovecraft - who has gone missing. The story opens in a seedy area of North Boston; the requisite trips to Providence and Brown University are there too. The art is very polished and the colours are beautifully done. They add much of the historical depth to the mood and help carry the story. It's like looking at a cross between post-Steampunk and proto-noir through a vibrant millennial lens. But the narrative is no slouch either. It picks up on Lovecraft's connections to members of the Lovecraft Circle such as Robert E. Howard. And for Lovecraft enthusiasts, it slyly incorporates what appear to be the origins of his stories. In that regard, it's a story about the writing of stories, and its premise resembles the frightening 2000 movie Shadow of the Vampire, which chronicled the making of the classic horror film Nosferatu. As one commenter put it, this is "mood" and "mystery" without the "blood and gore of the modern world" (we get some blood and gore later). The story also reminds me of David Lynch's Inland Empire, in that it seems to have a nested story structure that slowly unravels the reader's perspective and lets Latham take a stab at true horror. There's an October 21st review of the strip at Web Comic Overlook here, which mentions that the story was originally conceived as an early CD-ROM-based video game.
Slow Wave: Not Again! © 1995-2010 J. Reklaw. Reproduced with kind permission.
Slow Wave is a Web Comic based partly on its readers' dreams. People write down their dreams and send them in, and Jesse Reklaw forms an ongoing story incorporating these accounts. The result is a running narrative that is interactive, down-to-earth and surreal. There's also a lot of psychological tension, with some of these seemingly banal little panels leaving a sense of genuine displacement and disturbance. The strip really gets at the solipsism of subjective realities as individuals' dreams jostle up against each other. However, sometimes the characters are able to jump from their own dream into someone else's. It's a strip that well suits the disembodied, tech-riddled lives of virtual-versus-real people.
There are thousands of web comics out there. One of the big hubs for them is the Web Comic List, here.